[These passages come from Farningham's A Working Woman's Life (London: James Clarke, 1907), 43-45.]
My father often said that I never had a girlhood, but grew at once from a child to a woman. Certainly the responsibilities of life pressed very heavily upon me from the time of my mother's death. At first the aunt whom we loved, Miss Mary Bowers, who nursed my mother through her last illness, lived with us, and we had a few months of subdued peace and happiness. She was a very sweet woman, whom everybody loved, and she was very tender and good to us; but she herself only lived a little while, I think less than a year, after her sister.
The death of our aunt made a sad difference to our home, and we children never had womanly care afterwards. A young cousin lived with us for some months, but she was scarcely older than I. When I think of that time, the formative period of a girl's life, I am filled with thankfulness to the kind Providence who watched over me and my sisters so young, and so unprotected. My father, thought I did not know it, had at the time pressing financial difficulties which worried him, and made things harder for us all. I used to wish he would give us a step-mother, for I felt then, and feel still, that though it may be hard to have an unsympathetic step-mother, it is yet harder for motherless children to be without a woman to look after them. Of course I had to leave school and do the 'housekeeping' and the work of the house, and I am sure that it was done very badly. But I was only twelve years and a few months old, and the others were younger. We were left very much to ourselves, and I still think it was a bad time for a girl to pass through.
Reading was my chief consolation, and I had not much time for that. My father gave us two monthly magazines, the 'Teacher's Offering' and the 'Child's Companion'. In one of these was a series of descriptive articles on men who had been poor boys, and risen to be rich and great. Every month I hoped to find the story of some poor ignorant girl, who, beginning life as handicapped as I, had yet been able by her own efforts and the blessing of God upon them to live a life of usefulness, if not of greatness. But I believe there was not a woman in the whole series. I was very bitter and naughty at that time. I did not pray, and was not anxious to be good.
But there were a few people who loved me, especially a Sunday school teacher; and it was love that saved me. One Sunday morning, as I sat with our class in the gallery, my head was throbbing and my heart was burning with indignation and anger. My teacher beckoned me to sit next to her, and when the sermon began she gently took my hand in hers. My first impulse was to draw it back, for I was in antagonism with the whole world, but there was a look of infinite compassion in her eyes that drew me to her. A very short sermon it seemed that day, and as it proceeded all bitterness died out of my heart. At first compunction, then penitence, then resolve, then peace took possession of me, and I was quite another child when the service came to an end, for my heart was full of love and joy. This teacher was my namesake, though not related to me. She was Miss Eliza Hearn, of Eynsford, and at this time mistress of the British school. I recall her as a little winsome lady, young and pale, and very gentle. She was always good to me, and I longed to go to day-school again that I might be with her. By fits and starts I went, but very irregularly, and my sisters did not fare much better than I. After a year or two we had everything to do, washing, mending scrubbing, cooking. Poor father, his must have been the hardest lot of all!
Last modified 10 September 2008